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Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to the State of Israel A.D. Viktorov shares his reflections on the role of the Great Patriotic War in the defeat of Nazism and modern relations between Russia and Israel.

June 22, 2021 marks the 80th anniversary of the treacherous attack of Nazi Germany on the USSR, which plunged the multinational Soviet people into the bloodiest war in modern history, marking the beginning of the tragic and heroic events of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945.

This date, which entered the chronicle of modern Russia as the Day of Memory and Sorrow, is timeless. It embodies the memory of all those killed in battles, deliberately exterminated by the Nazis in the occupied territories and in Germany itself, who died of hunger and hardship. About all those who laid down their lives on the altar of Victory, having fulfilled their sacred duty to defend the Motherland.

On June 21, 1941, with the onset of darkness, Hitler’s order on the offensive was read out to the personnel of the German troops located on the border with the USSR, in pursuance of directive number 21 – the “Barbarossa” plan. On June 22, at 3:15 pm, German artillery opened fire on Soviet border outposts and detachments, the places of deployment of troops, at 3:30 pm, ground forces began an offensive, and Luftwaffe aircraft flew out to bomb cities in Belarus, the Baltic States and Ukraine. Thus began the struggle of the Soviet people for life and freedom, honor and independence, which continued for 1418 days and nights.

Let us recall that the Nazis launched an extensive propaganda campaign to blame the Soviet Union for the outbreak of war. However, as it was established, including at the Nuremberg trials, there was no reason to accuse the USSR of preparing an attack on Germany. Let’s add – and it could not be. Moreover, the attack on the Soviet Union was prepared by the Nazi command with special care for a long time and was not a “preventive”, but an aggressive war for the conquest of “living space” and the destruction of “inferior races”.

The scale and consequences of this war were so significant that it entered the popular consciousness as the Great and from the first day it acquired the character of a Patriotic one. It also became the most important and decisive part of the Second World War, its main content.

From June 22, 1941 to May 9, 1945, the main forces of the warring parties were concentrated on the Soviet-German front, including from 190 to 270, or three quarters, of the most combat-ready divisions of the Nazis and their satellites. During the war years, the Armed Forces of the USSR conducted 37 strategic offensive operations, defeating 607 divisions of Germany and its allies (Anglo-American troops defeated 176 Wehrmacht formations). The Soviet Union lost about 27 million people, of which 18 million were civilians and unarmed citizens. Tens of thousands of cities and villages were destroyed and burned to the ground.

It is worth recalling that the confrontation between the USSR and Nazi Germany had a decisive influence on the situation and the development of events on all other fronts of World War II. It was the Soviet Union that achieved the most important military-strategic result – the “victorious march” of the German hordes was stopped, most of the most powerful military machine of the Wehrmacht was destroyed, which opened the way for the liberation mission in Europe and Asia. The Red Army, in whose ranks about 500,000 Jews fought, made a decisive contribution to the liberation of Europe from the Nazi occupiers and the horrors of the Holocaust.

It is important not to forget that after Hitler’s “blitzkrieg” it was planned to destroy the Soviet state and seize its resource potential. This was considered by the leadership of the Third Reich as the most important condition not only for the consolidation of German domination in Europe, but also for the creation of the necessary foothold for the deployment of a further struggle for world domination. The war against the USSR was the key issue of the entire fascist conspiracy against peace, which was especially convincingly shown and proved during the Nuremberg trials.

In addition, a monstrous feature of the war of annihilation started by the Nazis was its destructive nature, which involved fighting not only against the armed forces of the enemy, but also against the civilian population.

Nazism and its misanthropic ideology are often compared to the plague – a terrible disease that has brought our world to the brink of survival. Millions of people sacrificed their lives fighting him, but without this sacrifice, a terrifying future awaited human civilization. In particular, the “General Plan Ost”, drawn up on the basis of the racial doctrine, envisaged detailed scenarios of resettlement to Western Siberia, the North Caucasus and South America, or the destruction of entire peoples of the USSR. Therefore, there is no doubt that the war against Nazi Germany and its allies was eminently just. It was about protecting not only the present and the future, but also social and family values, cultural and historical heritage and traditions, the fundamental human right – the right to life.

Not a single war in millennial history has known such massive examples of heroism. Hitler’s bet on suppressing the spirit of the Soviet people as a result of a surprise attack and an unprecedented psychological war not only did not bring the desired result, but also had the opposite effect – the Soviet people rallied in the face of the threat of enslavement and physical destruction by the Nazi invaders, showed unprecedented resilience, courage and self-sacrifice. The heaviest burden fell on the shoulders of Russians, Belarusians, Ukrainians, Jews, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Moldovans, Latvians – all Soviet people. All of them, from the tragic first to the victorious last day of the war, were united by the well-known appeal: “Our cause is just. The enemy will be defeated. Victory will be ours!”. During the hostilities, about 12 thousand people were awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, more than 11 million were awarded orders and medals.

We also remember that the first three years, during the most difficult period of the war, the Soviet people, in fact, fought to the death alone and won decisive battles that determined the outcome of the struggle against fascism. The peoples and political leaders of the countries of Europe and the whole world were waiting for news from the Soviet-German front with bated breath.

We are grateful and highly appreciate the contribution to the defeat of Hitlerite Germany of all brothers in arms who, shoulder to shoulder with the soldiers of the Red Army, fought against the common enemy in the name of the ideals of freedom and humanism. This joint struggle has become a convincing demonstration that different peoples and countries can and must rise above any disagreements, especially when the question of the future of all mankind is being decided.

The fateful events of that period became part of the historical process that subsequently led to the creation of the State of Israel. Today, an estimated two million people from the former Soviet Union live in Israel. Among them there are many veterans, blockades, former prisoners of concentration camps – witnesses of both crimes against humanity and the violation of human dignity, and the mass heroism of people united by the conviction of the justice of their cause.

This year is marked by the 30th anniversary of the restoration of full-fledged diplomatic relations between our countries. But the spiritual thread that connects our peoples has always been preserved and becomes stronger over the years. Today we note that Russian-Israeli relations are of a very kind, friendly and constructive nature.

The proximity of the approaches of Russia and Israel allows us to jointly defend the historical truth about that bloody war, to convey to the younger generation the immutability of the decisive contribution of the Red Army to the defeat of Nazism and the salvation of Jews and other peoples in Europe from complete destruction. Diversified Russian-Israeli interaction, including the vigorous activity of the compatriot movement, respect and erection of monuments to hero-liberators, legislative work, coordination of efforts on multilateral platforms, is of decisive importance for the peoples of our countries. In Israel, we find complete mutual understanding, which is especially important against the background of cynical attempts in a number of states to rewrite and distort the history of the war, to glorify Nazism and glorify Nazi henchmen, and a blasphemous attitude towards the memory of Soviet soldiers-liberators. The large-scale celebration of the 76th anniversary of the Great Victory, which was attended by tens of thousands of people of different generations in 45 Israeli cities, is a vivid confirmation of this.

We will continue to speak openly at all levels about the destructiveness of the revival of the ideas of national exclusivity, the danger of manifestations of racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism, to resist attempts to falsify and distort the premises, course and results of the Great Patriotic War and World War II.


EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and / or sentence structure not be perfect.

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